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Do You Really Need a Smart Home Gym?

Can a $3,000 interactive screen turn you into an Adonis? Maybe, but it’s probably not the best place to start.

shot of a young man working out on an exercise bike at home

When gyms shutdown because of COVID-19, consumers scrambled to find new ways to maintain a fitness regimen. Home gym equipment sales surged, with internet-connected at-home fitness-gear maker Peloton reporting a 66 percent boost in business in May and a whopping 176 per-cent increase by September.

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A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today

NordicTrack, Tempo, Tonal, Technogym and many other brands joined in on the fun. Since the pandemic began, it seems like every fitness brand on the planet has pushed some version of the smartest, hardest-work-ing, AI-powered, on-demand personal train-er, rep counter and new best friend in the shape of a bike, rowing machine, vertical climber or ... mirror.

In theory, with everything shuttered, the pandemic was the perfect time to hunker down, focus, and get into the best shape ever. But according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, we spent less time with our new fitness purchases and more time doomscrolling online, packing on the pounds in the process (hello,Quarantine 15).

When you look in the mirror — even if it's a Mirror — you have to be disciplined to do the work.

There are ample benefits to training at home: cleaner showers, fewer idiots leaving gum in the water fountain. Plus, there’s always parking. But only a dummy would stock up on the most expensive smart at-home fitness equipment without thinking it through first.

Research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health suggests that technology (apps and trackers) can promote increased exercise during free time. But the study was conducted in 2017, well before the flood of smart gyms and the pandemic. Also, the long-term benefits and retention rates were unclear, and the study’s authors found that the tech didn’t adequately engage those who need it most — inactive adults.

In other words, if you had a gym member-ship pre-pandemic and opted not to use it, shelling out for a pricey set of Bluetooth-enabled dumbbells that count reps for you won’t magically give you massive biceps. The bottom line is what it has always been: when you look in the mirror — even if it’s a Mirror — you have to be motivated and disciplined to do the work yourself. Day after godforsaken day.

apple fitness plus
From Apple Fitness+ to Centr to Nike Training Club and others, there’s no shortage of low- or no-cost ways to try out different fitness options at home.

Toward that end, a truly “smart” home gym features equipment you’ll actually use and that works within your budget. If that includes the shiny new gadget with the bells and whistles, so be it. If it doesn’t, figure out what you’re inclined to remain consistent with and invest in it. With the right mindset and info, you can rock your whole body with nothing more than an adjustable kettlebell, a pull-up bar and some resistance bands, after all.

Whatever you choose, there’s no shortage of quality digital services for those who don’t want to go to or return to a gym. Many of these programs — including Peloton, Chris Hemsworth’s Centr and Apple Fitness+ — offer up to a month free before charging your credit card. (Heck, the award-winning Nike Training Club doesn’t charge a dime, ever.)

Trying out these options is a stress-free— and free-free! — way to explore multiple modalities and personalities to find content that suits you and your interests instead of chaining you to whatever your smart gym’s library serves up. They are also super convenient. You can access workouts from any-where via multiple devices: smartphone, tablet, TV or computer.

And should you want to move on to an-other activity or service, you can cancel and not be stuck with a hulking dust collector disguised as an exercise bike. Now that’s smart.

Zack Zeigler is the Chief Content Officer for Muscle & Fitness and the co-author of Becoming Ageless: The Four Secrets to Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever.

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